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Concert Reviews

Yellowcard Celebrate 20 Years Of ‘Ocean Avenue’ At Pier 17

After ending a five-year hiatus late last year, legendary emo rockers Yellowcard are back on the road. And they hit up a sold-out Rooftop At Pier 17 in Manhattan’s Seaport District on July 8. Backed by the stunning vista of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the band celebrated 20 years of their iconic LP Ocean Avenue. The evening was a joyous celebration of collective nostalgia at one of New York City’s finest outdoor venues. Pier 17 is nestled in the South Street Seaport, with an 1800s tall ship moored right outside the gates. Headlining sets start just after sunset, letting fans watch the sun disappear behind One World Trade Center and light up the sky with vibrant colors. 

Yellowcard Pier 17
[Yellowcard, Pier 17, 7/8/2023. Photo by Joseph Buscarello]

The summer heat has fully set in the city, but the vibes were much cooler on the rooftop over the East River. Fans that arrived early were met with a steady breeze that paired perfectly with the deep lineup full of emo rock’s finest. First up was Long Beach duo This Wild Life, who serenaded with their anthemic acoustic-pop songs. Their stripped-back music sounded crisp in the open air, even with the distraction of the crowd filing onto the roof. The energy cranked up a few notches when Story Of The Year took the stage. Shredding through a short but dynamic set of classics, including “Until The Day I Die” and “Anthem Of Our Dying Day,” they rolled back the years. Mayday Parade filled the last opening slot, drawing a rowdy sing-along for “Jamie All Over” to close out their set. 

The anticipation reached a fever point, barely dissipating during the changeover. A thunderous ovation echoed over the river as Yellowcard emerged. The band wasted no time, diving right into the first two tracks from Ocean Avenue, “Way Away” and “Breathing.” Unlike most anniversary shows, Yellowcard decided to mix the album with other songs from their catalog. They would come back to the 2003 record throughout the show. Their excellent 2006 album Lights And Sounds featured heavily as well, with the driving title track up next. Fans would put the structural integrity of the roof to the test. Jumping in rhythm to song after song and sending waves of crowd surfers toward the stage. 

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Yellowcard Pier 17
[Yellowcard, Pier 17, 7/8/2023. Photo by Joseph Buscarello]

Things took on a somber tone as Sean Mackin’s violin chords from “Believe” reverberated in the twilight. The song was written in tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. With the rebuilt One World Trade Center towering over the skyline, the message of the song really sank in. Nearly 22 years later, however, the New York crowd was no longer singing with despair but rather with celebratory vigor. Honoring those who sacrificed everything to save others on that tragic day, it was a spine-tingling moment.

“Think about the love inside, the strength of heart. Think about the heroes saving life in the dark. Think about the chance I never had to say, thank you for giving up your life that day.” 

Yellowcard Pier 17
[Yellowcard, Pier 17, 7/8/2023. Photo by Joseph Buscarello]
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This new tour is both a celebration of Ocean Avenue’s 20th anniversary as well as the band themselves. Vocalist William Ryan Key took a moment during the show to say that when they played their final gig in 2017, he really thought Yellowcard was finished for good.

He points to the positive energy and pure joy experienced by both themselves and fans at their reunion show at Riot Fest last year for deciding to embark on this new era. This sentiment was on clear display tonight too. The band were feeding off the energy from the crowd, giving it right back to them. It equated to a vigorous performance that never relented as the show went on.

William Ryan Key also took the time to joke about the “elder emos” who made up the majority of the crowd. He comments that he thought they would tone it down a bit for a hot summer show. But he was amazed by the liveliness they came with. “I am one of you guys”, he quipped, as he went on to say, “Yellowcard would not exist without you all.” 

Yellowcard Pier 17
[Yellowcard, Pier 17, 7/8/2023. Photo by Joseph Buscarello]
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Right before the tour began, Yellowcard announced they were releasing a five-song EP. Titled Childhood Eyes it will contributions from Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba. Lead single “Childhood Eyes” made it to the setlist, fitting in seamlessly with the band’s classic material. A large amount of the crowd was already singing along to the song that was only a couple of weeks old. Moments like this go to highlight the loyal fanbase that the band has amassed over the years. 

Yellowcard is paying homage to their roots on this tour and bringing along the good friends they made along the way with them. William mentioned how he and the guys from This Wild Life have become video game pals.

He also explains how a spirited debate from back in the day shaped a lifelong friendship with Story Of The Year. “Back in 2003, it was all about ‘whose Avenue is better than whose’. But we’ve put all that past us and could not ask for better friends to be on the road with”, he laughs. Story Of The Year had their own mini-celebration, too. More than half of their set was dedicated to 2003’s Page Avenue.

Yellowcard also brought out Mayday Parade vocalist Derek Sanders for a rendition of “Hang You Up”. Camaraderie was one of the themes of the night, and the audience was reminded of that throughout the show. 

Yellowcard Pier 17
[Yellowcard, Pier 17, 7/8/2023. Photo by Joseph Buscarello]

Ryan and company ended the main set with the closing track from Ocean Avenue, Back Home”. After starting off with “With You Around” and “Only One,” Yellowcard rounded this out with a stunning rendition of “Ocean Avenue.” Sure, the song is an emo rock anthem that you can’t help but sing along to. But it goes well beyond that.

The tone and perspective of the night was all about lasting friendship and honoring the things in life that matter most. One of those things being the raw happiness found in our nostalgia. The lyrics of “Ocean Avenue” talk about longing for the blissful times spent with someone special who is no longer around. “We’ll be together for one more night somewhere, somehow.” But there is no reason that we cannot bring that happiness to bear on our own. A rooftop full of 3,500 people of all ages screaming the words to the timeless song proves that point. 

Pier 17 was just the third night of the North American tour, which runs through the middle of August. Openers vary by city, with Anberlin rotating in for some shows. Head over to Yellowcard’s website to see the full itinerary. You can check out our photo gallery from Yellowcard at Pier 17 below. 

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